The New York Knicks are riding a three game winning streak and seem to be much better without Andrea Bargnani on the court. The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a 1-4 homestand and should be desperate to flip their sorry road record.
For the Knicks, priority number one better be containing Kyrie Irving. Easier said than done, as Irving is one of the best scoring guards in the NBA. Despite the Cavs recent struggles, Irving just keeps posting solid numbers. He scored at least 23 in four games during the homestand, despite them all being losses. Irving has averaged 32.8 against the Knicks in their last four meetings but hasn’t won at Madison Square Garden, and the Cavs have lost four straight at the World’s Most Famous.
Speaking of scoring, how about the play of Carmelo Anthony lately? Over the last three games, all wins mind you, he is averaging 40.3 points per game (of course escalated greatly by the 62 point game vs. Charlotte). Aside from the scoring numbers, ‘Melo is also crashing the glass with 8.6 boards a game during the streak. Anthony is still leading by example as he has all season, and other Knicks are finally starting to play well and hit shots. Before the three game winning streak the Knicks were shooting 33.5 in their previous 10 contests, during the winning streak they are shooting 47.2 percent from three, looking more like last year’s team at this point.
The Knicks will have to defend the perimeter well tonight if they hope to continue their winning ways. Players like C.J. Miles and Jarrett Jack will look to exploit the Knicks if they don’t show up on the defensive end, and the Knicks still struggle to defend quick guards. Also, the Cavs could be without Anderson Varejao who is leading all Cavaliers in rebounding at 10.3 per game, and always seems to out-hustle the Knicks on the offensive glass. No Varejao would probably mean more of the 2013 number 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who had his best performance Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans with 15 points and eight rebounds in 31-plus minutes. He had played in only two of the previous seven games.
The Knicks will be without Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire for at least a few more games, but also on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics the Knicks might have lost Iman Shumpert. If Shumpert can’t go tonight his presence will be surely missed defensively. Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith better bring their A-game tonight if the Knicks hope to emerge victorious.
The Knicks are among others in that group fighting for a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. The Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats are all separated by just a few games in the lower echelon of the Eastern Conference. The Knicks need to start beating these teams that have similar records to them in order to show that they still have the desire to even be a playoff team. They took care of the Celtics and Bobcats, now handle your business at home against the Cavaliers.